Peter Ruff and The Double Four

December 18, 2017

I’m not going to write about all my recent E. Phillips Oppenheim reads–I’ve read about twenty of his books over the past month and a half, and that’s too many. But the more I read, the better a handle I get on him, and I’m finding most of his short story characters really enjoyable.

The Double Four seems to have been published before Peter Ruff, but Peter Ruff comes first chronologically. (You can find the two volumes in one here. I thought it was going to be a third Peter Ruff book, and was disappointed.) Peter is a nice young master criminal who falls in love with a young woman without anything in particular to recommend her. He’s trying to settle into a dull, middle-class lifestyle (to correspond with hers) when the police catch up with him and he has to leave his identity behind and create a new one. 

Oppenheim has as many kinds of private detectives as I have fountain pens, i.e. too many. Peter Ruff’s variation is hoping to be paid up front for assisting in illegal activities. But, as with all of Oppenheim’s more sympathetic criminals, he ends up on the right side of the law more often than the wrong one. He has a delightful former chorus girl named Violet for an assistant, his nemesis is the police inspector who marries the girl Peter loves, and he’s loosely affiliated with a high-minded French criminal organization called the Double Four.

In The Double Four, Peter is called out of retirement by that organization, which, since his departure, has morphed into a sort of private diplomatic secret service. Peter acquires a title, some nice clothes, and a new archenemy, a German nobleman.

For an Oppenheim hero, Peter is enjoyably imperfect. His business plan doesn’t go the way he expected, his romances make him look silly, and while he’s obviously very intelligent, he does his best work under the direction of others. Oppenheim always keeps secrets from the reader, but after a certain point Peter doesn’t keep any from Violet, and I appreciated that. Peter isn’t one of my top five Oppenheim characters, but these two books are exactly what I want from Oppenheim.


  1. This sounds fun! Is there cross-dressing? ;)

    • Not in this one, sadly.

  2. Thank you for this referral! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and then went and thoroughly enjoyed the book (having located the two-volumes-in-one version of it).

    • You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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